Criticism: trend of burnout diagnosis

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Criticism of sick leave due to burnout syndrome

Soft Germans? Sick leave due to burn-out syndrome as a "fad"? The head of the Rostock University Clinic for Psychosomatics criticizes the fashion diagnosis Burnout Syndrome. The willingness is great to see an excessive demand as a burnout.

Burnout - Not an independent disease The term burnout has only appeared in medicine since the 1970s. This condition is treated as an influencing factor, but not as an independent disease. This burnout leads to emotional exhaustion with reduced performance. Now Wolfgang Schneider, head of the Rostock University Clinic for Psychosomatics, warns against the willingness to consider himself overwhelmed. In the past, fatigue, listlessness and slackness were considered to be side effects of professional life, but today they are more often classified as burnout. The Rostock specialist observes the increasing number of sick leave due to mental illnesses with great skepticism since the 1990s. He says: "There is a great willingness of people to see themselves as mentally stressed and therefore to be on sick leave." This is a result of the media hype about the burnout syndrome. The director of the university clinic continues: “The threshold at which symptoms are referred to as an expression of a mental illness is falling. The diagnosis of a mental illness is made too quickly and too frequently. ”

Problematic diagnoses According to Schneider, precise analyzes show that the number of people suffering from an “established” mental illness has been stable for 20 to 30 years. It is 33 percent for women and 25 percent for men. However, absenteeism due to burnout syndrome is increasing. More and more people complain that too much is demanded of them in the world of work and in society and that everything makes them sick. "But a certain amount of tiredness, exhaustion, demotivation or sleep disorders in professional or private problems is part of the normal range of human experience - black painting also has negative effects," says Schneider. He also warned: "It is not advisable to pathologize everything", because if you are diagnosed and prescribed medication, your problems will be really pushed.

Burnout fad and sharp rise in antidepressant prescriptions "As the term burnout is currently used, it has become a real concept of fashion", Gregor Peikert, psychotherapist from the University Hospital Jena told the German Press Agency (dpa). The medical community is partly to blame for the more common diagnosis of burnout. Wolfgang Schneider, head of the Rostock University Hospital, formulated: "We are creating new diseases." Another problem is the small number of psychotherapists, which leads to bottlenecks in psychotherapy. All too often, psychiatric drugs are prescribed and the real problems are not addressed. The pharmaceutical industry influences "the diagnostic system and so many patients receive psychotropic drugs rather than psychotherapy". For men, prescriptions for antidepressants increased by approximately 80 percent between 2000 and 2010, and even by 130 percent for women. (sb)

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Image: Gerd Altmann /

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